Yoshio Nakajima – Travel with the Sun

Artist Yoshio Nakajima was born in 1940 in Kawamoto, a village in the Japanese countryside. He left home for Tokyo at the age of fourteen to pursue his plan of becoming an artist. There he took various day jobs and attended lectures and night school classes after work. Nakajima came to be an active member in Tokyo’s legendary avant-garde art scene during the 1950 and 60s, an early breeding ground for conceptual and performance art. During this period, he developed his own combination of painting, performance art, and happenings. His earlier work captures Japan’s postwar era, with the aftermath of the atomic bomb, the threat to the earth’s environment, and the rapid urbanization of the country.

Nakajima arrived in Europe in 1964 after seven months of hitching rides all the way from Japan. He was admitted to art school in Rotterdam, and continued his studies the following year in Antwerp. There he again became part of the local avant-garde community and got to know artists such as Hundertwasser, Joseph Beuys, Wolf Vostell, Allan Kaprow, and Asger Jorn. In Antwerp he collaborated with the artist Panamerenko: the two gave a number of performances together and launched the journal Happening News. During this period he also spent time in Copenhagen.

On a trip in 1966, Nakajima became stranded in Sweden for family reasons. He was admitted to the Valand Academy of Art in Gothenburg, which, particularly during those years, was the hub of a famously vibrant art scene featuring happenings, performance art, and conceptual art.

In 1972, Nakajima moved to the little village of Ubbeboda, located between Scania and Småland provinces, where many artists gathered, including Jörgen Nash, Kenneth Johansson, and Mette Aarre. These artists often worked collectively, in keeping with the spirit of the times, and they invited a number of artists from around the world to join them in Ubbeboda. They also included inhabitants of the local village in art courses they offered for adults and children alike. This period in Ubbeboda has always been relatively under-appreciated in the history of contemporary art, and constitutes a hidden piece of European art history.

Nakajima has lived in northwestern Scania County since 1977, first in Humlarp, outside of Ängelholm, and since 1987 he has been living and working in Helsingborg. In 2004, he bought the Raus stoneware factory, which his family runs and where he has his studio today. While Nakajima is based in northwest Scania, he has always been active internationally, and over the years he has given hundreds of performances and contributed to exhibitions all over the world.

The exhibition Journey with the Sun spans more than six decades and illuminates the different periods of his career up to the present day. In a constant search for new opportunities, Nakajima has moved in a series of different artist circles, and over time has built up his own artistic universe. His body of work demonstrates belief in the individual and in humankind, always with optimism and with the sun as his companion. He is an artist who offers hope for our time.

In a career of more than sixty years, Nakajima’s work has generally oscillated between celebrating the sun as a life-giving force and wanting to draw attention to threats to our planet based on his experience of the atomic bomb and various ecological issues. He also addresses the events in Ukraine in his recent work. Nakajima’s art continues to be topical today and relevant to the here and now.

The exhibition is produced by Dunkers kulturhus and held in collaboration with the artist and his family. The portion of the exhibition on Ubbeboda is co-curated with the art historian Nils Svensk and includes works and documentary materials of Yoshio Nakajima as well as other artists, such as Kenneth Johansson, Mette Aarre, Tereza Murak, and Sven Malvin. Curator/producer: Martin Schibli, Dunkers kulturhus.

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